Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
My start at Ultralight camping.
Display Avatars Sort By:
Ron McCarthy

Locale: So Cal
My start at Ultralight backpacking. on 12/02/2010 00:48:45 MST Print View

Hey everybody! This is my first post. I actually started hiking and camping this year and am already obsessed with getting lighter! Here is what I have now:
-Osprey Manta 20 day pack
-Osprey Kestrel 48 pack
-Kelty Cosmic 20 Down bag with Granite Gear compression sack. (bag is 2 lbs 6oz)
-Thermarest Neoair regular
-Optimus Crux Lite solo cook system (about 1 pound with pot, pan, stove and canister) thinking of going to an alcohol cat can system.
-Katadyn Hiker water filter
-Sierra Designs rain jacket

I am looking to get the Tarptent Contrail, Black Diamond Trail ergo cork trekking poles, and Some sort of light down jacket.

The last time I went out I rented a north face 2 person tent which had to weigh 6 pounds!

Any suggestions on down jacket? Any suggestions as far as going lighter or better for any items? Thanks!

Edited by quadster2005 on 12/02/2010 00:52:09 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: My start at Ultralight backpacking. on 12/02/2010 01:13:42 MST Print View

Ron, people here can't offer many suggestions without knowing some details. For instance, where are you located, or where do you intend to operate? Do you have a particular thru-hike planned for a year or two down the road? Do you go solo only, or with a small group of other hikers?


Ron McCarthy

Locale: So Cal
more info on 12/02/2010 01:45:52 MST Print View

I live in Southern California. Will be doing an overnight hike about every other month. The last hike I did was to the Willett hot springs. It was 10 miles in and 10 miles out. I will be doing a Sespe river hike in March which will be a 3 night. I am also hiking Mt. Whitney twice this year (regular route, then mountaineers route) and will also be hiking half dome and possibly a grand canyon hike. I hike in groups mostly, but will hike local trails solo. Anything overnight will be in groups.

Edited by quadster2005 on 12/02/2010 01:47:22 MST.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: My start at Ultralight backpacking. on 12/02/2010 02:09:32 MST Print View

I would dump that compression sack and put your sleeping bag in the bottom of your pack. You might actually be able to fit more into your pack without it.

You don't need much of a down jacket down here. I recently used a New Balance Fugu on the top of San Jacinto and it was overkill. Montbell is a good place to start looking. I suggest keeping the weight as close to 10 ounces as possible. For comparison, the Fugu is rated at 13.5 ounces.

Ron McCarthy

Locale: So Cal
compression sack on 12/02/2010 02:18:41 MST Print View

I never thought of just stuffing it in the bottom. I just bought the Kelty bag and it is much smaller and lighter than the North Face Aleutian synthetic bag I had before it.

Edited by quadster2005 on 12/02/2010 02:25:11 MST.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
My start at Ultralight camping on 12/02/2010 02:28:20 MST Print View

I agree you should dump the compression sack; a lot of compression is not good for down (or synthetic, either) insulation. It's also unnecessary weight. However, don't just dump the sleeping bag in your pack. Get a pack liner--2 mil contractor bag or trash compactor bag (make sure the latter isn't scented). It's vital to keep that down bag dry, and even the most experienced of us have been known to slip and fall during a stream ford!

Re the down jacket, it should be light. You may need an additional lightweight layer to hike in (mine is a 100-weight fleece vest), because any insulating layer you need when at rest will be far too warm when you're moving. Until the mid-20's, I'm fine hiking in a base layer and a lightweight wind shirt. The down should be saved for stops and in camp. The hiking layer can be used under the down jacket if the weather gets really cold. Be sure to protect the down jacket from moisture, both internal (your perspiration) or external (rain, drizzle, even fog). The puffy jacket will be warmer if worn under your rain jacket or wind shirt anyway.

You don't have to have down--a synthetic puffy jacket will work just as well. So will fleece, if you're on a budget.

Ron McCarthy

Locale: So Cal
Re: down jacket on 12/02/2010 02:34:35 MST Print View

I have fleece and it is what I have been using, but it is too bulky and heavy. I would use the down jacket at rest stops and at camp. I want something that compresses small and is light so it does not take up much pack space.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: My start at Ultralight camping on 12/02/2010 02:34:37 MST Print View

He's in southern California, so he doesn't need to worry much about rain or stream fords. That said, of course a waterproof bag should be carried just in case, but I don't bother using mine until it's needed.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
My start at Ultralight camping on 12/02/2010 02:45:54 MST Print View

Eugene, he does plan to be heading into the Sierra. And it has been known to rain in southern California! My daughter lived in Ventura for three years and saw plenty of rain each winter.

Brian Senez
(bsenez) - MLife

Locale: New England
re: My start at Ultralight camping. on 12/02/2010 02:53:54 MST Print View

Hi Ron, to really give you good suggestions we need a complete list. Many times there is a lot of extra weight in the small details. A complete list (everything!) is great to have written down also because it will make it easier for you when packing for a trip. A list will also help to avoid adding last minute 'just in case' extras. You can get a scale accurate to the gram at walmart for around $20.

Ron McCarthy

Locale: So Cal
other stuff I have on 12/02/2010 03:06:29 MST Print View

I have the 3 liter hydration bag from Osprey, a golite silver dome umbrella, an optimus titanium spork, a 1 liter nalgene bottle, an emergency whistle, a Kershaw tanto blur pocket knife, storm proof matches in the orange match container, the ultimate survival fire starter, a Silva compass, a small signaling mirror, microfiber towel, bic lighter, gsi plastic plate, gsi coffee mug, Marmot gloves, beanie, 1 extra pair of socks, under armor shirt, Columbia half zip fleece, and full zip fleece(want to replace with down jacket), Columbia pants. Small plastic shovel and small roll of charmin sold at rei. Thats what I went camping with a couple weeks ago.

Edited by quadster2005 on 12/02/2010 03:11:07 MST.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
My start at Ultralight camping on 12/02/2010 03:27:21 MST Print View

By a complete list, we're talking about a spreadsheet that includes the weight of each item and is organized by system. You can see lots of those on this site. You'll find a bunch of them here to use as models: You can upload yours to your profile.

The spreadsheet has many uses: analysis of your gear, analysis of proposed changes (you can instantly see the effect on total weight!), a checklist for each trip. It also helps you view your gear as a series of systems rather than single items.

Without a complete list with the weight of each item, it's pretty hard to give you any meaningful feedback.

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/02/2010 03:30:14 MST.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: other stuff I have on 12/02/2010 04:07:18 MST Print View

Ron, it takes a little while to get the hang of what people are talking about when they talk about a UL "system". Because people are trying to lighten up as much as they are comfortable with and still remain safe everything in your pack and that you are wearing is thought of as part of the complete whole, with nothing that serves no purpose, and preferably each item will serve at least two purposes. This means that things will be lighter, but also that they are being used everyday during your walk. For instance, instead of just a sleeping bag for sleeping, you carry a lighter quilt for sleeping and a separate insulated jacket that you use when sitting about camp, but also inside your quilt when it gets colder. You can also use the quilt for sitting about camp when it gets really cold, too. The more you get rid of an item's single use purpose the fewer items you bring and the lighter your pack gets.

That's why the spread sheet is so important; you can see the relationship of items at a glance and tell whether you need something or not. It's harder to see when you simply list everything without grouping it into use categories.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: other stuff I have on 12/02/2010 04:07:39 MST Print View

*1 liter nalgene bottle
Aquafina bottle is much lighter

*the ultimate survival fire starter
*storm proof matches
*bic lighter
Pick 2

*small signaling mirror
You already have a whistle

*gsi plastic plate
*gsi coffee mug
You can leave both at home if you eat and drink out of your pot

More weight can be saved if you're willing to replace equipment. Like the half zip fleece and beanie might be replaced with a Patagonia R1 hoodie, the plastic trowel and one stake might be replaced with a snow stake.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Well, back to basics, of course, the big three.... on 12/02/2010 06:56:03 MST Print View

The big three: Your pack, bag and shelter
For lightweight camping each item should be <3#
For Ultralight camping each item should be <2#
For Super Ultralight camping each item should be <1#
Camp kitchens are <1# for lightweight, <1/2# for UL and less than 1/4# for SUL.

Weight of individual items is important, BUT, do not overlook the weight of the entire system. Carrying a 6# tent and a 1/4oz stove doesn’t make much sense, as you found out. Soo, you are on the right track. I have heard good things about the Contrail. My only problem with it is versatility…it does not double as anything. I would recommend a tarp and an internal net tent. The tarp doubles as shelter, or a sit pad, or a wind break, or a blanket, or a lean-too. Soo, only the mesh tent is left as single purpose gear. This will weigh the same as the Contrail, but be more versatile, generally. And it separates the sleep system portion of the tent from the shelter portion of the tent…shelter does not always mean sleeping. Some people like a bivy and mesh over the head. Some like a real tent, like the Contrail. Some just use a ground cloth and tarp. Your choice...

Soo, thinking in “systems” becomes perhaps as important as the weight of the gear you will carry. Another example: a sleep system: Long johns, socks, bag, pad, down sweater and ground cloth. Thinking of one sleeping system, you can get away with a lighter 40F bag, with good long johns, down sweater and socks. The system will boost a 40F bag to ~25F. A pad is too important for insulation to do without, get the lightest, thickest one you can get.

Continuing from the previous example, the mesh tent will provide a ground cloth, bug protection and critter deterrence. Soo, a 2#6 bag is a huge overkill. You can drop the 2#6 bag for a 15oz bag. And replace a layer of “emergency” cloths (just in case) with sleeping cloths. A good example of some trade offs within systems, not really saving any weight with overall sleeping gear, but saving a lot on base pack weight and allowing you to do more with what you are carrying. Typically, over 24 hours, you want to use everything. If not, then you are carrying dead weight.

For some things, like the pad in the above example, there is not a lot of choice. You have to have one. For cooking, it is the same way. Stove, fuel and a pot are “must have.” Spoons, well, some people like simple chopsticks made up as they go. Fires are not always allowed or possible on hills. Lighting is important in woods. Some items do not easily adapt themselves to dual use. A stove is a stove, what else is it good for? It doesn’t even make a good screw driver. A knife is impossible to make or be without. For those “must have” items choose good, solid, dependable stuff, and, of course, light weight.

Spreadsheets are good for weighing gear. But they are not the bottom line. Often, trade-offs within a system for ultralight packing will yield greater results than simply buying the lightest item out there. But, changing your thinking and your approach to UL hiking & camping will show you which items need to be lightened up. Remember, examples are only examples…YOU need to live with your choices.

So, start with camping: Shelter, Sleeping, Cooking. Look for items that do dual or triple duty. Combine as much as you can into systems. Minimize those things you must have. The last thing (next year?,)pick out a pack to hold it all.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
My start at Ultralight camping on 12/02/2010 13:28:25 MST Print View

An excellent post on "gear list etiquette" which some good soul just "bumped" to the top of the "recent post" list:

Ron McCarthy

Locale: So Cal
Gear list with weights on 12/10/2010 16:25:23 MST Print View

Clothing Worn
Hat Baseball hat Lakers hat 3.5 oz
hiking shirt Short sleeve moisture wicking Under Armor Heat Gear polyester T-Shirt 8.0 oz
underwear trim-fitting support shorts, boxer-style Starter moisture wicking boxers 2.8 oz
hiking shorts Fight shorts/can be used as board shorts OTM camo fight shorts 9.7 oz
hiking socks lightweight moisture wicking Under Armor Heat gear 1.5 oz
hiking shoes breathable synthetic trail running shoes Adidas Kanadia TR3 28.0 oz
Other Items Worn / Carried
trekking poles 3 piece lever lock, cork handle Leki Aergon Corklite Speedlock 18.5 oz
knife Lever lock assisted opening Kershaw tanto blur 3.9 oz
watch compass / altimeter watch Suunto Vector 1.3 oz
Other Clothing
Rain Jacket Thin breathable zip up Sierra Designs rain jacket 10.0 oz
insulation layer Down jacket Montbell Alpine Light Jacket 14.0 oz
pullover Fleece pullover Columbia fleece pullover 7.8 oz
Hiking pants Pants cotton Columbia hiking pants 18.0 oz
warm hat wool beanie cap Adidas wool beanie 1.5 oz (43 g)
warm gloves wool liner gloves Marmot gloves 3.0 oz
Warm socks Socks for keeping feet warm Merrel socks 1.8 oz
Sleep System
overhead shelter Single wall tarp style tent with bathtub floor Tarptent Contrail 24.5 oz

sleeping bag 550 fill down bag Kelty cosmic Down 20 degree bag 38.0 oz
sleeping pad Regular length inflatible Thermarest Neo air 14.0 oz
backpack Internal frame pack Osprey Kestrel 48 55.0 oz

Cooking and Water
Stove/ cookpot Stove pot and pan with sack Optimus crux lite solo 10.4 oz
fuel container canister, small size Jet boil canister 5.1 oz

utensil Spork and Spatulat/knife Guyot Designs Microbites 0.7 oz
lighting matches & lighter Bic lighter & matches in waterproof case 1.5 oz
water bottles wide mouth filtering bottle Nalgene 32 oz 3.8 oz
water treatment Water filter and emergency tabs Katadyn Hiker and potable aqua drops 13.2 oz

Other Essentials
towel Large towel MSR Packtowl original 2.6 oz
light LED headlamp Princeton Tec 2.7 oz
first aid minor wound care & meds assorted wound & blister care and medicines 2.0 oz (57 g)
firestarting emergency firestarting - waterproof Ultimate survival fire starter 0.9 oz
sunglasses 100% UV blocking, polarized Von Zipper Papa G 2.0 oz
Pad repair Pad repair kit 0.8 oz
insect repellent 100% DEET Coleman 100 MAX 1.0 oz
personal hygiene assorted toiletries toothbrush, soap, toilet paper, 2.0 oz

Weight Summary
(1) Total Weight Worn or Carried 4.8 lb (77.2 oz)
(2) Total Base Weight in Pack 14.3 lb (229.2 oz)

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Re: Gear list with weights on 12/10/2010 20:33:19 MST Print View

Good start but not to be critical a few items are killing you weight wise.
That said back in the day I was lugging 40-45# and my main hiking buddy was carrying about 50-55#.

I would probably skip the Fleece pullover depending.

Also ditch the cotton Columbia hiking pants. I like cotton too, and I have hiked many miles in jeans but cotton is miserable when its wet and it just never dries.
If you need heavy pants get worsted wool pants from the salvation army.
I am now trying to find a pair I can make into zip-offs.

Tarptent Contrail is good.

Sleeping bag is slightly heavy but not too bad.
Your pack is way heavy at least for me - 55.0 oz, Gak

Can the towel and get a Libman microfiber cloth from publix

Imo for an ultralight setup, start a spreadsheet and dont buy anything that does not fit your goals. You already have a few bits of fairly heavy stuff, but in a few areas its cheap to lighten up a bit.

Just to back up as if you were starting from scratch, I think a good rule for a moderately priced light weight kit is 6# for the big 4 and 6# for everything else for a 12# base weight or under. 24oz pack like a miraposa or less, sub 2# tent like a moment or contrail, sub 2# 20dF bag or quilt like a golite ultra 20 quilt and a very light pad setup like a prolite short or neoair short on a GG SUL pad. That will weigh close to 6# for reasonable $. Actually for me with my pack that weighs 18 oz, my bag 21 oz, my pad 14 oz. Add your contrail and I would be at 4.875#. Your pack alone weighs almost 3.5#

The other 6# is the hard part, especially clothing but it can be done.

Think especially less bulk (smaller pack, IE not 55oz) and less weight.

2 things I would do now....

I would go with a lighter and smaller cook set like an alcohol bag setup.

My current bag cook alcohol setup with fuel bottle weighs less than 6oz for everything, pot, cup, spork, stove, windscreen, fuel bottle etc. It costs almost nothing to put together. Save the compressed gas stove for short trips or when its extremely cold, or you really want to cook. I dont like to wash camp dishes so bag cooking is perfect for me.

I like nagene bottles too but they are heavy and your filter is heavy.
Take 2 platys, an aquamira filter and some drops.

Both of those are cheap. I would also plan on a new pack asap followed by other tweaks.

Here is a link to one of my UL lists.
Its an 11# base.
Might give you some ideas.

Edited by tammons on 12/10/2010 20:36:09 MST.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
RE: My start at Ultralight camping on 12/11/2010 00:02:11 MST Print View

Good list overall. I think you'd be more comfortable with a lighter pack in the 10-20 oz range. Check out Mountain Laurel Designs, Gossamer Gear, ULA, and similar. The MLD Burn looks good.

I would keep the signal mirror. Its effectiveness at attracting the attention of search aircraft in sunny conditions and open terrain is without equal for the weight.

Ron McCarthy

Locale: So Cal
My pack on 12/11/2010 12:07:47 MST Print View

I know my pack weighs a ton in Ultra light standards. I bought it before I cared about weight and spent $160 on it for one trip. I should have bought the exos!! I want to have an internal frame pack that holds the weight better if possible. I am in the process of making my own alcohol stove right now. I need a lighter bag but i would have to spend 3 times what I spent on my bag and I have a problem with that right now. I spent $100 on my bag.